Food, fuel, and feeling good, part 1: Kale

Live to eat – or eat to live?

I live to eat. I love food in all its delicious forms. There’s some processed food that tweaks my synapses in a way that no zucchini could (oh Oreos, I love you); but overall, my food philosophy can be summed up thusly:

Eat comfortably and mindfully.

Before we go any further, I want to mention: I am not a nutritionist. I did consult with one before I put this post together (thanks Emmy!) but before you take anything on the Internet as gospel you should probably check in with your physician or a registered nutritionist for something that works for your situation.

There was a time in my adult life where I couldn’t eat anything but soup for three months. It was a painful time, emotionally and mentally, and I can honestly say that bike riding saved my life. I bought a new-to-me bike during this time and when I started riding more regularly, I got hungry. I had to feed myself in order to keep going. Soup – though wonderful! – doesn’t generally have that “full full” feeling in your body for long.

I started experimenting with greens, and fibrous root vegetables, and cut out a lot of processed food (like tons of crackers and cookies) in favor of dark chocolate and baking my own cookies and controlling the ingredients. Being single, I had to figure out how to cook in portions that were easy to consume – or figure out what I could make and freeze.

Which brings me to kale. I had no idea about kale aside from the hipster-related jokes about massaging it to make it edible. It wasn’t until my friend Emily told me about this delicious kale salad from Tavern in Nashville that I gave it much of a second (or third) thought. I found a tweaked recipe at an old Nashville Scene blog post and decided to give it a try.

I’m here to tell you, y’all: it’s amazing. It’s addictive. And it’ll take whatever you throw at it.

Below is my modified recipe (it’ll feed you for about 4 or 5 meals, or feed you and a few friends for 2 meals). Make it in advance and let it set overnight in the fridge; then, when you’re back from your bike ride and you’re dying for something to eat, you’ve got this amazing and delicious salad to eat. The green leafy veggies will give you a lot of vitamins and minerals and actually help replenish electrolytes like potassium, too.

Best Kale Salad Ever

  • Bunches of kale, chopped well (kale goes a long way) (Tuscan or curly is fine)
  • Red onion
  • Some kind of turkey or chicken lunch meat (I like seasoned turkey)
  • Sunflower seeds, toasted (or pine nuts, toasted optional)
  • Parmesan, finely grated (if you have a microplane, all the better – the parmesan just melts into the lemon juice and olive oil emulsion)
  • Salt (kosher is best)
  • Pepper
  • Dried cranberries or craisins or regular raisins
  • Lemon juice, fresh squeezed (one large lemon is sufficient)
  • Olive oil

Finely chop everything. (Make sure to REMOVE THE WOODY STEMS from the kale and compost them. What, you’re not composting? Here’s how to start.) Combine all ingredients except olive oil and lemon. Take juice from half the lemon and maybe twice the amount for the olive oil and stir until it’s emulsified. Then, pour over the salad and toss. Let it sit for about an hour or two (or overnight) then EAT.

There’s all manner of other things you could put in there – sundried tomatoes! roasted red peppers! probably basil and mozzarella and tomatoes! gouda! – but that’s my basic recipe there. The parmesan works well when it’s shredded super fine, like on a microplane. You can also use the basic Kraft parmesan cheese from the pasta aisle if you need to save some scratch.

Notice I didn’t get specific about the amount of ingredients – don’t worry, the kale will overwhelm all of them. You think you can put too many sunflower seeds in here? Nope. Chopchopchopchop that kale up fine, and it will swallow all the other accessory ingredients like the kale boss it is.

To make this vegan, all you need to do are eliminate the cheese and meat and it’s ready to go.


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